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CSA Newsletter ~ Week 19

Posted 8/21/2012 12:51pm by Chris.
We're currently experiencing perfect conditions for both crops and people. Though nearby river levels are still extremely low, we've had average/normal rainfall, over 5 inches, since the peak of the drought (July 17th), and soil moisture levels on the farm are great. The ground is wet enough that we don't have to irrigate much--only right after transplanting or direct seeding in the field--but not so wet that we can't till and plant when we want/need to. If anything, it's been a little on the cool side. August has a chance at being the first month in the last ten with below average temperatures, and that has slowed down the ripening of warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers. Some of our direct seeded fall carrots went in a little late, so we don't want it to cool down a lot just yet, but overall, things look great and the field is loaded with several successions of greens. 

As it cools down, expect to see more variety and volume of greens. This week we're packing lettuce and Lacinato kale, the most tender kale variety. The other
pink beauty
Pink Beauty
green, celery leaf, is familiar to those of you who were with us last year. Regular celery is rather difficult to grow in the Midwest, and the stuff you find in grocery stores gets irrigated every day. It needs lots of water to remain tender and mild. Otherwise, it becomes much stronger, and can become bitter in hotter/drier weather. We like celery leaf because it does develop a stronger, more distinctive flavor without becoming too bitter if we don't irrigate it constantly. It is great in soups, stews, or any cooking that would normally include celery. We use it in our Bloody Mary mix in our processing kitchen.

Otherwise, the box is pretty much a classic summer box with sweet peppers, a few hot peppers, eggplant, torpedo onions, and round slicing tomatoes. Not everyone will see them every time, but look for Pink Beauty, the pink, round, perfect looking tomatoes that taste as good as they look. Pink Beauty has become one of our favorite tomato varieties with great old fashioned flavor and nice firm texture wrapped in a
pretty pink package. Some of you might receive some of the small, dark, earthy Nyagous tomatoes, one of our favorite heirloom varieties. Enjoy the last of our red torpedo onions; they have great flavor and can be used in any way you might want, but be sure to try some fresh in salads to get the full expression of flavor. 

We've already begun planting hoop houses for the fall season. By the end of the summer share season in early October, we'll have all 23 hoop houses planted to lettuce, chard, kale, Chinese cabbage, several Asian greens, and lots of spinach, which is our number one crop for fall/winter greens harvests. We usually devote half our fall hoop houses to spinach, upon which we depend heavily after mid-November, when it's too cold for anything else to grow and thrive. This November, we're going to take spinach production to the next level by replanting all our lettuce, chard, kale hoop houses to spinach so that we have a more plentiful supply through the coldest part of winter. Though spinach doesn't grow much when it's very cold, it does continue to grow right through the winter, and our winter spinach has by far the best flavor and highest quality of any spinach. 

We don't have the details worked out yet, but we'll be offering a true winter share that will likely be delivered every other week, and feature our incredibly sweet spinach, root crops we've stored from our fall harvest (carrots, beets, turnips), garlic, onions, and jars of our whole roasted tomatoes that we're currently putting away from our roma/plum tomato crop. These tomatoes are the backbone of our farm processing kitchen in summer, and are a great base for pasta sauce, chili, or any cooking that requires 'canned' tomatoes. Packed in glass and roasted until about 20% of the water is cooked off, these tomatoes are much nicer than just about anything available commercially. We'd love to know what you think about such a 'winter share' which would be offered 8 of the 16 weeks between our fall and spring share. Please let us know.

Chris Covelli
and the Tomato Mountain Farm Team 

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