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CSA Newsletter ~ Week 5

Posted 5/15/2012 8:57am by Chris.
The threat of frost has passed and we're now heading into the heart of spring with temperatures approaching 80 for the first time since the crazy heat wave we had back in March. The dry conditions we're experiencing, and that are supposed to persist into the near future, are mostly good for us. While we do need to irrigate more, we can till (work the soil for planting) and cultivate (work the soil shallowly to kill weeds) when we need to. The dry air also keeps the nights a bit cooler, farm workers a little more comfortable, and the conditions a little less favorable for disease development. 

With all the greens we've been harvesting and packing lately, we thought it might be a good time to let you know our philosophy on produce washing and shelf life. The more thoroughly crops--particularly more delicate 
washing spinach
Gently washing spinach
ones like greens--are washed, the more abuse they take, and the less shelf life they retain. Even the most careful washing slightly bruises leaves, stems, and roots alike. Lettuce or spinach, for example, will last at least a month if washed only minimally, or not at all. It's not unlike the difference between ground and whole coffee beans. Grinding, like washing, allows degradation to begin. The 'triple washed' greens you see in grocery stores are washed with very sophisticated and expensive equipment on a very large scale, and are an example of where big can be good. We can't afford a $50,000 greens washer, and we want you to have maximum shelf life, so to maintain optimal storage conditions, we either wash them minimally straight from the field (to hydrocool) or right before we pack them. These decisions can be very 
washing lettuce
Lettuce takes a cooling bath
tricky, have huge implications regarding quality and labor costs, and as much as anything represent the "art" of farming. We always recommend that you wash your greens thoroughly before use.

For loose leaves, you might consider using a salad spinner. The centrifugal force dries the greens for immediate use or for additional storage and depending on the care taken and the condition of the greens might allow you to keep cleaned greens on hand for several days to several weeks. You can spend anywhere from $20 for a simple model to $200 for a big, very well made unit that would last a lifetime and supply a large family. While that might sound like a lot, considering how long it would last and how much healthy food could be washed, it would be an investment in your family's health. And while convenience and fast meals are sometimes necessary, so is taking the time to interact and work with one's food in the preparation of meals. 

As far as the box this week there are a couple of new things.Chinese (napa) cabbage is similar to some of the cooking Asian greens like tatsoi, bok choi, and vitamin green, which is also in the box this week, so you're well on the way to a stir fry. The other new item is radishes; in the spring, we grow Shunkyo, a cylindrical Japanese radish. Talk about a judgment call. In the spring radishes can be challenged by insect pressure and warming weather which makes them hotter and less crisp. But we harvested these while still small and before significant insect damage, so they're still pretty crisp and the tender greens are at their best. We especially welcome the splash of color to complement the greens in the box. Plus, we won't see them again until fall, when they grow best. Along with the lettuce 
and spinach in this week's box, they're a great base for a salad. Shunkyo greens are the most edible of all radish greens, so add them to a stir fry along with the Chinese cabbage, vitamin green, and kale in this week's box, or add some to your salads. 

Chris Covelli and 
The Tomato Mountain Team

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