Many parts of operating a year-round vegetable farm are fun — meeting new people, tasting the first of everything right in the fields (today’s first was a melon!), spending beautiful days entirely outside. But we also have the opportunity as farmers to add extra fun things to the overall mix if we choose. One of those fun “extras” is to try out growing different vegetable varieties on our farm. We do this on our own every year, looking for a few new fun things to add to our existing list of tried and true staples.
We are thankful to organic seed breeders who are always working to produce new varieties specifically selected for high performance in organic conditions, which are different than conventional conditions! Generally organic crops will encounter more weed pressure, have slightly less availability fertility (although not always), and will need to have better inborn resistance to a myriad of pests and diseases. We have seen here on our farm how different varieties of the same crop type will perform with pronounced varying degrees of success. It is a fun adventure to find the varieties (and sometimes even strains of particular varieties) that grow vigorously and still have great culinary qualities as well.
That work, albeit fun, takes time. We personally can only discover so much in a year, limited as we are by the nature of the growing season. That is why we are grateful to Lane Selman of OSU who works with farms across the valley to coordinate vegetable variety trials. Each year she works with participating farmers to determine which crops are of interest for study and then she (and farmers) select potential varieties to trial. Trials are planted on several farms so that information can be collected in varying circumstances (all organic). Selman helps to insure that shared planting protocol is followed across all the farms. Then as the season progresses, the plants are evaluated, and eventually the information is shared between the farmers and published for future reference. Whenever possible, Selman even organizes tasting events!
We’ve worked with Selman on several such variety trials over the years, enjoying the connection her projects give us to the wider community and enjoying watching several varieties grow in one relatively small area on our farm. This year we are participating in a variety trial of sweet corns. We grew eight varieties, and they are almost ready to pick now (likely they’ll be in next week’s CSA). Because some are ready, Casey has begun evaluating them and he lined them all up on our counter to take the fun photo in the week’s newsletter. Vegetables are endlessly fascinating in all their colors, textures, and flavors.
You can read more about Lane Selman in this interview from last year..
In other August news, we’re amazed at how fast summer seems to be speeding by now that we’ve passed the halfway point. Our August calendar is jam-packed with swim lessons, camp, the ECLIPSE (!!!!), and then the start of our homeschooling year in the final week. Earlier in the summer, I swore I wanted summer to last forever, but now that we’re in a persistently hot and dusty/smoky stage of August, I am starting to see the appeal of fall. Plus, there’s the joy of fall harvests beginning. This week’s share contains the first of this year’s apples! That is seriously exciting in our apple-loving house.
We hope that everyone out there is savoring these final weeks of the season too. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Apples — The first of this year’s apple harvest! These are our earliest apples, called Chehalis (must be locally bred!). They are a large, slightly tart apple great for eating or cooking both. A perfect way to start the apple season!
- Sweet corn
- Eggplant — We have LOTS of eggplant this week! So this would be a good week to experiment. One thing to note is that this longer style of eggplant (often called “Asian”) does not need to be peeled or soaked before preparing. You can prepare it very simply by chopping/slicing and then sautéing until it is soft to your preference. We often combine it with other vegetables to make a quick summer stew in our cast iron pan. It goes well with any of the classic summer vegetables: zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, corn (cut off the cob) … Also, try making baba ganouj! Here is a link to an older post of mine with recipes for baba ganouj and roasted eggplant.
- Salad mix — Still too hot to cook? Salad for dinner is the answer!
- Fennel bulbs
- Garlic – for the baba ganouj!