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CSA Newsletter ~ Week 34

Posted 12/4/2012 1:35pm by Chris.
One last episode of warm fall-like weather has done wonders to move along our 20 or so hoop houses of spinach. It won't taste incredible until we get some colder weather, but we've had enough cold that it is still very nice, with great texture and a little more sugar than spring spinach. There is nothing resembling December weather in the forecast for the next week, at least, and nothing particularly cold for at least two weeks, so we'll have lots of growth that will then sweeten up as we head into the heart of winter. 

Part of the problem with all the warm weather is the aphids in the hoop houses. Aphids are little black flying insects that lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. Their larvae--that you will no doubt see on the undersides of the spinach leaves--are white. They are very common, and not the problem that people often think. They can be quite a problem in warm, closed, stagnant situations where predators, like spiders and larger flies, can help
control populations. This tends to happen in the spring when we start plants in our heated greenhouse, and this time of year when we're trying to 'push heat' towashing spinachgrow as much spinach as possible. Simply opening up
the greenhouse, cooling things down, and allowing a few predators to enter can help a lot. This time of year, and to an extent in spring, there are not as many insects around in general, and so not many predators may be present, but at least cooling things down a little slows down the aphids some. 

Of course, we wash this spinach a lot more than we normally do to try to get as many of those little white aphid larvae off as possible. We're hoping to find the middle ground where the spinach gets clean, but not too beat up. That means we're getting about 80% of aphids removed, and hopefully not bruising the spinach too much. As is usually the case with most vegetables, and always the case with greens, it's best to wash them immediately before use. When there's lots of large grained sand, or many aphids, we wash more thoroughly than we usually would. This does present the risk of slightly bruising the leaves and reducing shelf life, but we feel it's necessary when things are too dirty or buggy. A gentle spray, as achieved by a regular kitchen sink sprayer, will likely remove any aphids that don't rinse off with a normal greens washing. 

We'd love to know what people think of the whole roasted tomatoes we put in the Thanksgiving box. There seems to be some concern amongst us here atDave and Slicerthe farm that this product isn't 'normal,' and might not be meeting the expectations of CSA customers. On the other hand, different products that allow us to extend the season and give people tomatoes in the winter seem great. Tomatoes are the number one vegetable crop in the U.S., in both fresh and processed forms. So far, we've not had any bad feedback, and most people do seem to like it. It is great for us to be able to put away several thousand quarts of roasted tomatoes for the late fall, winter, and early spring boxes. 
For my favorite sauce made from these tomatoes, see the lefthand column.

Chris Covelli

and the Tomato Mountain Farm Team 

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