Week No. 6 - 2010 Season

Watering thirsty vegetable crops, safeguarding against blight

Like a mugging, drought slams an organic garden to the ground. It does sudden violence to life in every way. It’s frightening. Plentiful, even excessive rain, of the early season left us expecting even 20 percent chance of rain forecasts would come through for us the past 2 weeks. A number of strong rain prospects have passed us by. We’ve gotten less than a quarter inch of rain once or twice – when we needed an inch and one-half minimum each week. Many of our plants are suffering. We drove into Madison Tuesday night after packing our subscriptions so Dela could attend a Madison Area CSA Coalition board meeting and I could shop for irrigation supplies and hose replacements. We’ve been hand watering and hosing, using sprinklers and drip tape in both fields we rent and own for several days. It’s time-consuming work, and in many cases just keeping our crops alive. When we have harvesting and fieldwork to do for fall planting, it stretches us plenty thin. Water is the single-most important determinant to size and yield for almost all vegetable and herb varieties. Please trust that we’re doing everything possible and within our means to get our vegetables back on track for growth – including praying really hard for rain. Blight prevention – We’ve been getting warnings through professional affiliations about guarding against the plant disease that ravaged tomato and potato crops last year. It was also the talk of organic growers and horticulture crop researchers at the field day on a neighboring farm last week. Like so many other growers, we’ve invested months and months of time and expense in establishing thousands of tomato plants in portions of three fields. We’re trying hard to protect these crops from a disease that can destroy them in 3 days. We’re employing the only organic-approved means of guarding against this blight – a copper spray mixed with water. Copper is an essential mineral found in the plant, the ground and the body. Like everything, though, it must be kept in proper balance. In gardening and crop production, it is also effective in preventing plant disease on limited other varieties, such as Brussels Sprouts. We’re trying to be selective in using this spray, but it’s important that everyone who eats our vegetables wash and rinse varieties thoroughly before cooking or eating them. Specialists from Arlington Research Station at the organic field day last week assured us that the copper spray was safe to use, but encouraged us to advise washing to our subscribers.

This Week’s Vegetables are:

  •  First tomatoes (Oregon Spring and Jet Star varieties)
  • Patty Pan yellow squash
  • Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
  • Oregano
  • Lettuce Mix
  • Zucchini or Hyrdra or Yellow Crookneck squash)
  • Cucumbers
  • End of snow peas (better to stir fry than eat raw at this end of the season)
  • Dela’s cream cheese, a gift from our goat milk

Cooking Tip for the Week

A Dinner of Sautéed Vegetables from Mollie Katzen “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” (1982)

This classic cookbook has simple, detailed instructions for breaking vegetables into three groups and preparing them in a wok. Cabbage, broccoli, snow peas and pole beans fall into the first group, for longest cooking time. Summer squash falls into group 2, adding them second for shorter time length. Greens, sprouts, scallions and tomatoes fall into the third group, cooking almost on contact with the other cooked or hot vegetables. The more thinly a vegetable is sliced the more quickly it cooks, and Katzen emphasizes slicing or dicing everything before you start stir-frying. The basic goal is to cook the vegetables quickly (over high heat, stirring almost constantly) so that each vegetable is done to its own individual perfection. Hover over the wok as you sauté. Stir very much. Keep the heat high and keep the vegetables moving in the wok. Work quickly.